Let me begin this review with the following statement: we began this cruise with the lowest of expectations. We are seasoned cruisers and have enjoyed our cruise vacations on most the major lines. This was our first cruise with NCL. We had a 34th anniversary coming up, and I found the perfect length cruise, over the perfect dates, and at quite a perfect price; so on a whim we booked it. THEN I logged onto Cruise Critic to learn more about the ship, excursions, ports and so forth. What I discovered was a firestorm of negatives about the Norwegian Sky: No AC...overflowing toilets...terrible service...etc. After reading several days of postings, it seemed to me that NCL was attempting to fix the problems with the ship.
Still - we resolved to have a great time no matter what! We arrived at the new NCL terminal in Miami at about 11:30 am. Embarkation was painless; we were greeted on the ship with glasses of sparkling wine, and by 12:15 we were seated in the Palace Dining Room having lunch. What a pleasure this was! This is the first ship that I have been on that actually offers a sit-down, served lunch after embarkation. The menu was varied and delicious. I certainly didn't miss the usual first day crush around the buffet.
Item two on our agenda was to begin our tour of the ship. We had picked up ship layouts as we checked in, so we began to familiarize ourselves with the layout. Sky is not a large ship, but is has some very nice places to gather. We especially liked the Outrigger Lounge forward on Deck 11 and Captain Cook's Bar, midships on Deck 6. The pool area seemed small in comparison to other ships. There are two pools and one is designated as adults only - however, there were always children. I guess NCL Sky's "children cruise free" was most evident poolside. But since we are from FL, sunbathing poolside is not high on our list - so it was not a problem. The buffet areas are also quite small - although the times we ate there - the food was quite good. My DH loves smoked salmon - and found salmon on the breakfast buffet as well as the dining rooms.
By 2:00 pm the announcement was made that our cabin was ready. Since this was a short cruise, we felt that a ocean-view would be adequate. Our cabin was forward on deck 8. No sewage odor in the hallway (or anywhere - they we experienced). The first thing I did was flush the toilet, turn on the faucet, and check the coolness of the a/c. Check, check & check! WHEW! MAJOR RELIEF! The size of the cabin is small. The refrigerator takes up the usual drawer space, but there was plenty of room for the two of us the the amount of clothes we needed for four days. Our luggage fit nicely under the bed. The room was clean except for the hairs I found in the drawer (yuck). The bed mattress was firm - but it was the upgraded pillow top - so it was quite nice. I am a bit of a pillow freak, and there were four plush pillows on the bed - two large square ones and two soft sleeping pillows. The bedlinens were soft and nice, but towels a bit on the lesser quality side.
Muster was at 4:30 pm - outside - (again yuck) but thankfully we were on the shady side of the boat and it didn't take very long.
By 5:30 I was seated up in the Outrigger Lounge with my first beer - watching as we pulled out of Miami harbor. Beautiful. The ship's band was there playing Jazz. Nice.
Afterwards we returned to our cabin and YEAH - luggage had arrived. We busied ourselves putting things away and made our way to dinner at about 7:30. Let me say here that we had decided not to upgrade dinners at Cagney's, Le Bistro & Il Aggagio. We are usually very satisfied with the food served in the dining rooms. All in all, we were not disappointed with the food served at both dining rooms on the Sky. We both enjoyed the leg of lamb on the first night. The 2nd night was lobster and grouper night - and it too was delicious. My DH enjoyed his beef stroganoff even though the recipe included green peppers and dill pickles??? He still cleaned his plate. My only disappointing entree' was the 8 oz sirloin that I ordered on night 3 (I ordered it medium rare and it came well done). However, my DH loved his pork loin. Night 4 we both enjoyed the persian lamb. I must say that the desserts were outstanding -even the light choices.
As I said - this was our first NCL cruise and it felt odd not to have to worry about a particular seating. Since we had lunched at the Palace Dining Room, we decided to have dinner at the Crossings. Crossings is at the stern of the ship. The ceilings are low, but the room has a very nice ambiance. The receptionist at the front asked our room number, and we were escorted to a table for four at the front right of the dining room. Our table was next to the traffic pattern and looked into the kitchen. It was very noisy and this detracted a bit from our enjoyment of dinner. We later learned that certain tables were reserved for more expensive cabins. Still, when we mentioned our experience to the receptionist - she very graciously sat us at the back of the dining room out of the traffic pattern for the remaining times in her dining room. NCL should look into doing something to reduce the noise levels from dishes being cleared in the dining rooms. I do believe that you lose a bit of the serving elegance with freestyle dining. Still, everyone of our servers worked very hard to serve us a wonderful meal.
Day 1 was at Grand Bahama - Freeport. We were turned away from breakfast at Crossings - our cabin level did not qualify- this was embarrassing - but we enjoyed the same menu at Palace. My DH is not a shopper nor a gambler - so we decided to just stay close the ship. We did get off the ship and walk through the marketplace dockside. Since we were not getting much exercise this day, I did take advantage of the gym. I took my own headphones and plugged them into a treadmill and then to a stationary bike. Fine - although the room seemed a bit warm. Probably because I was exercising - :) We enjoyed the rest of the day reading and relaxing. After another delicious dinner at Crossings we had an after dinner drink in the Capt. Cook lounge listening to Leo play guitar and sing. This young man is quite talented. His repertoire included Platters, Elvis, Beetles, Johnny Cash and Frank Sinatra. He didn't talk too much between numbers - YEAH - just very pleasant after dinner music.
Day 2 was Nassau, Bahamas, and we really enjoyed our Seahorse Sail and Snorkel excursion that we booked through NCL. The catamaran was very nice and, and the snorkeling was fun! The coral reef was very healthy. We saw many varieties of coral and fish.
Day 3 was the Stirrup Cay. The first tender didn't take off until 9:00 - and so we spent a while waiting in the cooooool hallway. The tender offloads right on the beach. Once there we walked to the left towards the rocks. We had heard that the snorkeling was best there. Now HERE is where reading the cruise critic boards pays off. We had heard that there was not much shade at Stirrup Cay so we purchased a collapsible cabana from Linen's and Things and carried it with us along with our snorkel gear. It was a bit of a show putting the cabana up in the wind - ;) but we persisted and enjoyed the day without getting too much sun! The snorkeling was good - much better than the out island owned by Carnival/Holland America. We saw many varieties of fish (both small & large), and we were surprised by the health of the coral in an area that is so shallow and has so many swimmers. The barbecue lunch was good - although the facilities do not match other out islands.
There are parties everynight late near the pool- and people were certainly having FUN! Even the children were enjoying themselves dancing! We enjoyed the shows by the comedian, Tim Kominsky. He was a real treat! I have a feeling NCL sent him to SKY especially to help turn things around! I can't report on the stage shows - since we never made it to one of those.
We chose express walk off - so disembarkation was a breeze. We woke up at 7:00, had a delicious sit down breakfast at Crossings and walked off the boat with our luggage by 8:30. Easy - Breezy! All in all - this was a very good cruise. It is hard to compare cruises because the size of ships, amenities and ports vary so greatly. I can say that attitude is everything. If you are looking for trouble - you will find it. If you are looking for a good time - you will find it.